The first of the ‘I Am’ statements. Clearly meant to draw a parallel to Ex 3:14 – and the ‘manna’ connection also makes that clear. Jesus is saying several things about himself and his work. Sign confirming: John 6, the feeding of the 5000.
He is the author and sustainer of the life we are called to live. Jesus isn’t talking about something incidental to life, but something basic, something essential. And it is also a complete claim. This bread – this Jesus – provide lasting and fulfilling nourishment. Jesus says this about the ‘living water’ – never thirsty again – as well as about the bread. The kind of life Jesus holds out for us is satisfying, completing, nourishing. It’s not the kind of empty promise of fame or fortune, which leave that disappointing aftertaste. In contrast, the life Jesus gives is life that is worth living for eternity. In John’s gospel, the key promise of Jesus is that He comes to bring life. In John 10, he promises ‘abundant’ life. John 3 – eternal life, as opposed to the kind of life that ends as we perish, as we die. Abundant, eternal life is his handiwork. I’ve been looking around recently, trying out different kinds of gluten-free bread. It’s an experiment, and I’ll explain why some time. But I’ve tasted some dreadful ones. I particularly disliked the loaf from Tesco – apologies, but every little didn’t help there. Then a while ago I discovered that the Pandoro bakery at the end of Pinehurst road do a really nice one. Bread that you can eat, and you feel that it has nourished you. They make it, and they have the recipe and ingredients. It’s their creation, their work. And in just the same way, this life, this life of eternity, this life of the Kingdom, is Christ’s creation.
And that means, then, that He is the one through whom life is given – we must ‘come to Him’ in order to receive. The importance, the centrality of faith. The words that Jesus uses are in invitation – ‘He who comes to me’. And they are set in the context of some who do – but there are plenty who do not, who will not. They eat the literal bread, but then ask for manna. They grumble and argue – in an echo of the Israelites in the desert. But they do not believe. Jesus makes it pretty plain that He is the one through whom life comes: v53. It’s the scandal of the Christian faith – that we declare that in Christ alone is there the hope of eternal life. But this is not to be avoided; it is precisely what Jesus declares. I so often read John 14 at funeral services. ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled…’ But I wonder if people really hear it? I read it because of the promise of life. But it also tells us that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the way to that life. ‘No-one comes to the Father but through me.’ When Jesus tells us that he is the giver of life, he tells us also that only by trusting in Him can we eat this bread and receive this life.
And that leads on to the third truth: He is the gift as well as the giver. Jesus tells us not that he has the bread of life, but that he is the bread of life. Don’t miss something amazing here. Jesus is declaring that he is God himself – he claims to be ‘I Am.’ Again, we are taken back to the wilderness. Just as Moses met God at Sinai before the Exodus, so Jesus says the same thing now as he meets with the Jews: ‘I am…’ A claim so blasphemous that the Pharisees would instantly have seen that. Listen to Jesus. ‘I am the Bread of Life.’ ‘I have come down from heaven.’ ‘Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.’ It’s arrogant and it’s focussed on Jesus. Let no-one tell you that Jesus never claimed to be divine. He couldn’t have put it more bluntly. And he says to those who hear Him claim it, ‘you must receive me in order to receive this gift.’ We are not calling people to believe things about Jesus. We are not calling people to a selection of religious observances centred on Jesus. We are calling people to receive Jesus. As complete an act as eating bread: receiving Christ, that the life he gives becomes the life we live.
Question is: are you getting enough bread? Do you feed on him?
- Have you believed? Taken that first step?
- Are you staying close? Walking where he walks? Sharing fellowship with His people? I don’t believe that Jesus is speaking of communion when he speaks in John 6. But I do believe that Paul is connecting back to his words in 1 Cor 10:16. Our fellowship together, our worship, is one way of us continuing to be nourished by Jesus.
- Are you receiving, feeding on his words? V63. What Jesus says to us – especially his words brought in scripture, through the Spirit, and through prayer – these are the moments of feeding. Are you taking time? Or have you settled for a fast food diet? Time to digest!